Cal Track and Field: Defending Olympic Champ Tianna Bartoletta into LJ Final at U.S. Trials

She qualified ninth in Thursday's prelims and will jump again on Saturday.
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Reigning Olympic champion and Cal volunteer assistant coach Tianna Bartoletta qualified for Saturday’s finals of the women’s long jump at the U.S. Olympic trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

Bartoletta, 35, jumped a season-best 21 feet, 5 1/2 inches (6.54 meters) to finish ninth in Thursday’s qualifying round. She fouled on her first attempt, and jumped 20-9 (6.32 meters) in the third and final round.

The top 12 qualifiers in the field of 22 athletes move on to the final, where the top three will earn spots on the U.S. team headed to Tokyo next month.

Bartoletta, who has dealt with health issues the past couple years, still has not achieved the Olympic standard of 22-4 1/2 (6.82 meters). She will need a top-3 finish and a qualifying mark in order to get the chance to defend her title from the Rio Games.

Her mark Thursday was her best since 2018. Her personal best is the 23-6 1/4 (7.17) leap she made to win the Olympic gold medal five years ago.

Bartoletta is chasing her third Olympics. In 2012 at London, she was part of the U.S. 4x100 relay team that won a gold medal and set a world record. She contributed to another 4x1 relay victory in Rio, along with her gold in the long jump.

But starting in 2017, Bartoletta began experiencing a series of health issues that included extra-long menstrual periods, dizziness, fatigue and an ankle injury.

After failing to make the team for the 2019 World Championships, she consulted a doctor who diagnosed her as having severe anemia. “I don’t even know how you’re walking around,” he told her.

Ultimately, doctors revealed the reason for her anemia and bleeding — a tumor in her uterus that required emergency surgery.

Now on the comeback trail just two months shy of her 36th birthday, Bartoletta washed out of the 100 meters in Eugene last weekend.

She took a big step in her specialty on Friday but faces stiff competition in the finals.

Brittany Reese, the 2012 Olympic champ and silver medalist in 2016, had the top qualifying mark of 22-6 1/4 (6.86). Texas star Tara Davis, whose jump of 23-5 1/4 (7.14) this spring is No. 2 in the world, qualified fourth at 2-11 (6.68).

Cover photo by of Tianna Bartoletta by Chris Pietsch, Eugene Register-Guard

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo